Parks Race Reactions: Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500
After the rain, the fog, and the delays, NASCAR went racing on a Monday. Sure, it isn't the best situation for all fans, but it was another day on the weekend for most.
In the end, it was a home-grown driver taking the checkered flag. So, why waste any time. Let's get into my race reactions from Monday's event in Martinsville.
Right away, I have to look at the good and bad day of Richard Childress Racing. With a washout of qualifying, Kevin Harvick got the pole and got the lead very early.
But, just as quickly his day went bad. The most important part of a Martinsville car is the brakes, and his went away early. Two trips to the garage and two calipers later, Harvick was back on track.
Unfortunately, it cost him the top spot in the points as he fell to fourth.
Meanwhile, it was an incredible day for Jeff Burton. A top-five car all day long, led laps and showed he still had a lot of muscle in the No. 31 Caterpillar car. Really was a great day for the guy known as "The Mayor" in the garage.
How about the run by Jeff Gordon. There is no doubt that when it comes to Martinsville, Gordon has this track memorized. He had a great opportunity to cash in his first victory of the season, and nearly pulled it off.
Crew chief Steve Letarte's call to stay out on the race's 12th caution for sure was the right call. He was in the best position and showed that even with old tires, he could jump out and get the lead. Had the caution not come out shortly before the end, I can almost assure you Gordon would've been in victory lane.
At the same time, the guy who many predicted would go to victory lane, Jimmie Johnson, didn't lead one lap. He ran second and third at some points, but didn't stick his nose out to lead one lap.
Rather odd for him at this track, but at the same time it was a good day. His ninth-place finish was enough to get the points lead away from Harvick.
Let's face it, right now, Johnson is truly the man when it comes to the Sprint Cup Series. Whether this momentum leads to a fifth title is uncertain, it is only the sixth race of the year.
Finally, what a gutsy run by Denny Hamlin. For a guy that has a torn ACL, this track was the true test of how much pain he was in. Even before the race began, he announced he was getting surgery done this week on his knee. I already had a feeling this would happen, but as hard as he tried, there was no way he would go an entire season with that kind of pain.
But, he put the pain aside and ran 500 laps at a track that's start-and-stop traffic, worked his way to the front, and became a contender for the win.
Mike Ford, Hamlin's crew chief, made a tough call bringing the car to pit road for service with just four laps to go. Hamlin wasn't sure if it was the right call, but soon found out it was.
Going from ninth to fourth in just four laps, Hamlin was there for at the least a top-five finish. But a lucky caution flag gave him another chance.
Had it not been for a miscue by Kenseth on the track, it probably would've been Gordon going to victory lane. But, Hamlin got the opening and went onto his third win at Martinsville.
An awesome race, and a great way to lead into another off-weekend for racing. With Easter on the horizon, all the drivers will take a much needed rest before going Saturday night racing at Phoenix.
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